The Mayor and his Pleasantries

Our little town is perfect as it is.  When I describe it, you'll come to understand.  First of all, when I say little, it's beautifully little.  There's one main intersection with traffic lights.  On the corners of the intersection are the following:  the grocery store which only sells local products; the hardware store; the restaurant with a counter and a few tables and chairs and a kitchen in the back that serves the best roast beef and chicken sandwiches ever; and the bank.  Even a little town needs a bank.  Just up the road from the intersection, at the top of the hill, is the church, a beautiful stone building.  It's Anglican.  Everyone in town is Anglican.  We also have a book store, a doctor, a barber, and a thrift store that sells random goods.  The houses in our town are mostly wooden and white with small lawns in front and even smaller vegetable gardens in back.  Some people have fruit trees and berry bushes too.  At the far edge of town to the north is the cemetery with the war memorial; south, at the other end, is the river with a small park near its edge.  Four hundred people live here.  The population has been static for generations.  Whenever someone dies, someone new is born, that's just how it works.  We regenerate like a perfect little organism.

Obviously we can't be one hundred percent self sufficient, being so small.  We have to go to the other nearby towns, larger ones, to fill our cars with gas or get dental work or buy household items not available to us locally.  The schools are in the larger towns too and all our children travel by bus.  If we want to see a movie or go to a theatre, that's farther still.  But, on the whole, in our town we can provide our own entertainment.  We don't need movies or theatres to keep us happy.

I'm the mayor.  My father was the mayor before me and his father was the mayor before him.  We've always taken perfect care of the town and looked after the residents.  I love talking to the residents as often as I can.  When they see me approach, their faces light up with happiness.

This morning, it's a beautiful sunny day with a light breeze and a perfectly cloudless sky.  I'm visiting the restaurant.  It's my first stop of the day.  The restaurant is decorated in a  red and white motif, checker-board patterns on the table-tops and on the counter, landscape paintings and portraits by our local artist on the wood-paneled walls.  The chairs and stools are well-worn but comfortable.  I walk in and sit at my table where no one else can sit.

"Good day, Mr. Mayor," says Mrs. Smith.  She is the owner of the restaurant, a very good-natured silver-haired widow, always friendly and accommodating.  Her husband is buried in the cemetery near the memorial.  He got sick one day and never got better. 

Mrs. Smith brings me my coffee and my slice of apple pie.  Whenever I visit in the morning, which is most days, this is my regular fare and she knows it.  She also brings me my daily newspaper.

"Good day, Mrs. Smith," I reply.  "How are things this morning?"

"Today is a perfect morning, Mr. Mayor."

"That's good to hear.  Will you be ready with your roast beef and chicken sandwiches for lunch like always?"

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, like always."

"That's excellent.  We don't want a repeat of last week, do we?  That one day, when your roast beef and chicken sandwiches were not ready?  That would be unacceptable, wouldn't it Mrs. Smith?"

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, that would be unacceptable."

I smile and Mrs. Smith turns and walks back to the kitchen.  I finish my slice of pie and my coffee quietly, reading the newspaper, occasionally looking out the window with relaxed contentment.  When I leave the restaurant, I know that Mrs. Smith will immediately retrieve my dishes and clean my table and put the newspaper back on the counter near the cash register.  I know because that is the accepted routine.

Outside again, I cross the street and walk towards the hardware store.  Mr. Willow, an ex-soldier with a noticeable limp and a scar on his left cheek, approaches and greets me.  Mr. Willow's battalion got bombed during the final days of the war and he almost didn't make it.  Now he's old but happy.

"I trust you are doing well, Mr. Mayor?" he says smiling.  "You are looking well as always.  I particularly like the suit that you are wearing today.  It's very dapper, if I may say so."

"Thank you, Mr. Willow, I am feeling fine and I appreciate your compliment."  I scan him up and down.  "Mr. Willow," I say, disappointed, "I notice there is a small hole in your shoe.  Is there anything you would like to tell me?"

"No, Mr. Mayor.  I am on my way to the thrift store now for some new shoes."

"I am glad, Mr. Willow.  You know my thoughts about appearances.  About how we need to take care of our appearances, especially when we are in public."

"Yes, Mr. Mayor.  I will have new shoes shortly."

"That is good, Mr. Willow.  I wish you a good day."

"And a good day to you too, Mr. Mayor."  Mr. Willow steps away and I watch him walk to the entrance of the thrift store.   He glances back at me once, then turns and enters the store.  I will know if he gets new shoes or not.

Visiting the hardware store, my destination prior to conversing with Mr. Willow, is always a highlight of my day because the owner, Mr. Davidson, is a very clever man and he routinely creates interesting displays in his front window.  He sees me looking at his handiwork and he comes outside to greet me.

"Good morning, Mr. Mayor.  What do you think of my display this morning?  I hope you find it satisfactory."

"I'm trying to decipher it, Mr. Davidson, but it just looks like a few random products to me.  I'm not sure if I feel too pleased with it."

Mr. Davidson swallows noticeably and scratches his balding head.  "If I may be so bold, Mr. Mayor, can I ask you to tell me what you see?  Maybe proceed from left to right."

"I see some yarn, a mallet, an awl, a ruler, and a jug of oil."

"That is correct, Mr. Mayor.  But what if I do this."  Mr. Davidson enters his store and walks to the window where he quickly rearranges the products, then comes back out.  He is anxious.

"It's still the same products, Mr. Davidson.  I'm losing my patience."

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, but the order is different.  Now what do you see from left to right?"

"I see the mallet, the awl, the yarn, the oil, and the ruler.  So what?  Are you trying to embarrass me, Mr. Davidson?"

"No, of course not, Mr. Mayor, not at all.  What do you get if you take the first letter of each product?"

"M-A-Y-O-R.  Oh now I see!  This is excellent, Mr. Davidson!  I'm so pleased!"

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  It's my tribute to you.  All the town will be able to see it."

I continue to look at the display with a feeling of satisfaction.  "Yes they will, Mr. Davidson, and, in fact, I am going to order everyone in town to come here and look at your window.  Keep your display like this for the next few days, so that everyone has a chance.  You will, of course, let me know if anyone disobeys my order?"

"Of course, Mr. Mayor.  And, Mr. Mayor, this is your display, not mine.  I only did the arranging."

"Well that's fine.  Good work, Mr. Davidson.  Enjoy the rest of your day."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor, and you too."

I turn and walk happily away.  Mr. Davidson has always been a fine and respectable and respectful resident of the town.  It has been a rare moment over the years when I have had a problem with him.

On my way to the church, where I intend to have a very nice little discussion with Pastor Mackie, I literally bump into Mr. Willow coming out of the book store.

"Oh, Mr. Willow," I say, "I didn't expect to see you so soon."  He appears anxious and I look down.  "Mr. Willow, can you explain to me why your shoe still has a hole?  Is there a problem?"

"No, Mr. Mayor, there is no problem.  I went to the thrift store right after we spoke - I know you saw me enter it - but unfortunately they didn't have any shoes that fit me."

"So why were you then in the book store, Mr. Willow?"

"I just popped in quickly, that's all."

"What should you have done, Mr. Willow?"

"I should have immediately gone to the next town to search for shoes.  I'm sorry, Mr. Mayor, it won't happen again." 

"Mr. Willow, I want you to go home, get in your car, and drive to the next town.  If they don't have shoes for you, then go to the town after that.  You keep searching until you find new shoes and you don't come back until you have them.  You know my thoughts about appearances.  Is this understood, Mr. Willow?"

"Yes, of course, Mr. Mayor."

"Mr. Willow, how much food do you have in your house?"

"I'm not sure, Mr. Mayor, maybe enough for four or five days, if I ration it carefully."

"Well, Mr. Willow, this is what you are going to do.  Once you have your new shoes and you come back home, you will be under house arrest for five days.  It will give you time to think about your actions.  In no circumstance will you be allowed to leave your house.  Is that understood, Mr. Willow?  If you do not follow this order, I will have no choice but to evict you.  And you know I can evict you, don't you, Mr. Willow."

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, I know."

"And why can I evict you, Mr. Willow?"  I smile.

"Because it's your house."

"That's right.  And what else do I own in this town?"


"So not only can I evict you, I can evict anyone.  Isn't that correct, Mr. Willow?" 

Mr. Willow looks down at the ground and at the hole in his shoe.  "Yes, Mr. Mayor, that is correct."

"Don't misunderstand me, Mr. Willow.  You are a free man.  You are completely within your rights to leave our town if you are finding it unpleasant."

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, I understand."

"You would, of course, be leaving with nothing but the clothes on your back.  It would be a struggle.  I don't think an old man like you could survive that struggle.  So ultimately you choose to stay in our town, isn't that right?  And why do you stay, Mr. Willow?"

"Because it is the best town and you take care of us well and you know best."

"Excellent.  Enjoy the rest of your day, Mr. Willow."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  I trust you will have a fine day as well."  I watch Mr. Willow turn and walk away as quickly as his war-limp will allow.  He is a kind and decent old man.

I walk away too, up the hill, perspiring slightly in the mid-day sun, arriving with deep breaths at the church.  It is a glorious structure, not big or imposing, yet highly impressive in its dignified holiness.  The front door is heavy but opens easily.  When I enter, the light, filtered through the stained-glass windows, envelops me like a blanket.  I walk to my pew at the front and sit down, close my eyes, bow my head, and silently contemplate the goodness that surrounds me every day and provides me with so much peace.

After several minutes - ten, fifteen, I couldn't really say - I open my eyes and look back up, towards the dais.  Pastor Mackie is standing at the lectern, watching me silently.

"Good day, Mr. Mayor.  I trust I didn't interrupt your meditation?"

"Not at all, Pastor Mackie.  I get in a solemn state very quickly when I enter our church.  It is rare that anything interrupts me here."

"It pleases me to hear that, Mr. Mayor."

"It is a fine day, Pastor Mackie.  Very productive so far.  I've had fine encounters with Mrs. Smith and Mr. Davidson and Mr. Willow.  Most fulfilling."

"That is excellent to hear, Mr. Mayor.  I trust our encounter will be equally satisfying for you."

"I am confident it will."  Pastor Mackie is a middle-aged man with light thinning hair and blue eyes.  He looks impressive in his dark clerical garments.  "Can you tell me what you are working on, Pastor Mackie?  For Sunday's service?"

"Of course, Mr. Mayor.  Over the past few days, I have been pondering whether God can feel loneliness.  We know, for example, that He can feel satisfaction.  He was satisfied after creation.  We know He can feel anger.  He overthrew Sodom and Gomorrah in anger.  We know the Bible states that God is love.  So if He is love, He must be able to feel love.  If, therefore, God can feel satisfaction, anger and love, it seems to make sense that He would be able to feel loneliness as well.  But does He feel it like humans do or in a different way that we perhaps can't comprehend?  This has been my focus this week, Mr. Mayor.  I've spent many hours in serious contemplation and study."

"Very interesting, Pastor Mackie," I answer.  "Very interesting indeed."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  I trust you will attend Sunday's service to hear it in its final version?"

"I will attend, Pastor Mackie, you can have no doubt.  But, you know, I just had a thought of my own."

Pastor Mackie's smile, if I'm reading it correctly, wavers for the briefest of moments before he responds.  "Please, Mr. Mayor, share with me your thought."

"Well, perhaps you can do your sermon on Job instead.  I've always found that to be such an intriguing story.  All the difficulties he faced, his tribulations, and his struggle to be patient and obedient.  Yes, I would love to hear you preach about Job."

"Of course, Mr. Mayor, Job is a fascinating story and I would be glad to prepare a sermon on him.  Can I suggest, however, that perhaps I do it on a future Sunday?  I have, after all, spent all week working on my current sermon.  Starting anew with Job would be a great challenge to have it completed properly and in time."

"Yes, yes I do understand the challenge," I respond, "and of course I would only want your sermon to be of the highest quality."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor, I'm so glad we are in agreement."

"Oh no, Pastor Mackie, I think perhaps you misunderstand me.  I do appreciate the difficulty of changing direction at this time and starting on a brand new topic.  Whether I understand or not is, however, not the issue.  I would like you to speak on Job.  This is not a suggestion.  This is my directive."

"Mr. Mayor, I'm just not sure it is a feasible..."

"I can find another pastor, Pastor Mackie."

Pastor Mackie nods, his visage initially stoic, but then he smiles at me.  "Yes, of course, Mr. Mayor.  Of course I can speak on Job this Sunday.  It would be my pleasure."

"Excellent," I reply, standing up.  "I so look forward to hearing your sermon.  Have a great day, Pastor Mackie.  And all the best with your work."

"Thank you, Mr. Mayor.  I will start on it immediately."

I exit the church and walk back down the hill towards the intersection, passing several residents who greet me kindly and with deference.  Spontaneously, I enter the bank and approach the office of the manager, who looks up and smiles.

"Good day, Mr. Mayor.  How can I help you today?"

"And good day to you.  I will be brief, as I have been out all day and I'm looking forward to being home for a break.  You are familiar with Mr. Willow, our honourable war veteran?"

"Yes, Mr. Mayor, of course."

"I would like you to freeze his account.  Just for the next five days.  He is being disciplined for a breach of good conduct."

"Oh my, Mr. Mayor, that is a serious action.  May I ask what happened?  Perhaps there is something less drastic that can be done?"

"No you may not ask," I snap back impatiently.  "Please follow my instruction.  Immediately, please."  I leave the manager's office without a further comment and exit the bank.

My house, which I see finally, is near the river, in fact my backyard stretches right to its edge.  It is a beautiful property with a lovely vegetable garden, some apple and peach trees, and a circumference of gooseberry and red currant bushes.  There is a covered gazebo with a wooden swinging bench and a deck that is accessible through the kitchen's sliding glass door.  The many large windows look out on the entire scene.  It is great for watching storms.  Even deer and foxes approach occasionally.  At this point in the day, however, after being out in the sun for so many hours, I just want to slip out of my shoes, take off my jacket, and lounge on the couch in the cool of my air conditioned family room, perhaps nursing a shot of whiskey or a snifter of brandy.

Today has been a productive and rewarding day.  Meeting and talking with the residents of the town, assisting them in all the ways that I can, feeling their admiration towards me, fills me with joy.  It is an honourable position, being mayor, and I'm proud and humbled to serve.  I will go out again tomorrow and start again.  I love this town.



Chris Klassen lives and writes in Toronto, Canada.  After graduating from the University of Toronto and living for a year in France and England, he returned home and worked the majority of his career in print media.  He is now living a semi-retired life.  His stories have been published in numerous journals including Across the Margin, Fleas on the Dog, Vagabond City, Dark Winter, Ghost City Review, The Raven Review, The Coachella Review, Sortes, and Toasted Cheese, among others. Chris recommends Haven on the Queensway, a non-profit food and clothing bank.


Edited for Unlikely by Jonathan Penton, Editor-in-Chief
Last revised on Sunday, May 5, 2024 - 20:57